14 December 2012 by Denise Slabbert

Lunar landscapes and carpets of wildflowers…

The Northern Cape offers some incredible natural attractions for keen photographers and those who love the outdoors.

Namaqualand during the spring

The Northern Cape is known for its huge skies and wide, lunar landscapes, as well as the numerous natural attractions that will take your breath away.

The Augrabies Falls, one of the major natural attractions in the Northern Cape The Augrabies Falls, one of the major natural attractions in the Northern Cape

Augrabies Falls
The Augrabies Falls in the Augrabies Falls National Park are where the Orange River cascades down a waterfall of 56m. Their name is derived from a Khoi word meaning ‘place of great noise’, and when the river is in full flood, the noise is deafening. There are also a number of other geographical landmarks in the park, such as the massive, domed Moon Rock; the Swart Rante (hills), which form a natural border between a rocky gorge area and more fertile land on the other side; and the viewpoints of Echo Corner, Ararat and Oranjekom. Natural life includes succulents, birds, reptiles, the rock hyrax (dassie) and buck. There is camping, chalet and cottage accommodation in the park.

|Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park
Managed jointly by the local Nama people and South African National Parks (SANParks), this transfrontier park abutting the Namibian border may seem harsh and barren, but a closer look reveals rich desert flora, miniature rock gardens and tiny succulents kept alive by the morning fog coming in from the Atlantic. The rugged landscapes are dramatic. The endemic half-mens succulent, resembling a human-like figure from a distance, is symbolic of the area. Small reptiles, birds and mammals can also be spotted. The park is at its best between June and October in the flowering season. Guided trails are possible, while camp sites and rest camps provide accommodation. The park is accessible by means of a 4x4 vehicle. This transfrontier park came into existence following the 2003 signing of a treaty that merged the |Ai-|Ais Hot Springs Game Park in Namibia and |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld National Park in South Africa.

Incredible lunar landscapes of the Northern Cape Incredible lunar landscapes of the Northern Cape

The area that extends from the Orange River in the north to the town of Garies in the south, and from the Atlantic in the west to Pofadder in the east, is known as Namaqualand. It is famed for its carpet of wildflowers that emerges after the winter rainfall, colouring the normally drab landscape. At this time (August and September) a number of tour operators run tours into the region, visiting the quaint small towns and the best flower fields. Or take a trip yourself. The Namaqua National Park, operated by SANParks, is also in the vicinity and offers rest camps for overnight stays, drives and picnic sites.

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
This transfrontier park is the result of the unification of the Kalahari Gemsbok Park in South Africa and the Gemsbok National Park in Botswana. Semi-desert, it is characterised by red sand dunes, thorn trees and, of course, large herds of antelope, including gemsbok (oryx), springbok, eland and wildebeest. The black-maned Kalahari lion is a more rare sight, along with other predators, reptiles and birds. There are rest camps and upmarket, unfenced wilderness camps to stay in. The park is not sedan-friendly; many of the drives are best done in 4x4s.

The Northern Cape is home to incredible wildlife. Images by SA Tourism The Northern Cape is home to incredible wildlife. Images by SA Tourism

Category: Attractions

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